Essex, ON – A small group of dignitaries gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the new Heritage & Conservation Centre at the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area. This new centre will enhance the educational, cultural and visitor experiences for all guests.
The visitor experience begins with a grand entrance to The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation Welcome Centre, which includes the Town of Essex Tourism Hub, and serves as a tourism conduit for the region. Expanded exhibit areas tell the story of the Homestead’s past, and the gift shop features beautiful handmade items from local artisans.
The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation Creative Commons is the centre’s main interior teaching space. It triples the site’s current teaching capacity, and offers an important, modern, indoor space to assist in the delivery of programs where specialty equipment, such as microscopes, light tables and scientific specimens, is utilized. The Creative Commons also provides an exhibit area where educational displays and sensitive historical artifacts can be displayed in climate-controlled environment. The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation Creative Commons will be used to interpret the western basin of Lake Erie and the significance of the natural coastal processes on our local environments.
The Toldo Foundation Outdoor Classroom and Wildlife Viewing Area will allow thousands of students and visitors to take in the historic outbuildings, heritage gardens and orchard, and most spectacularly, the best vantage point of the western basin of Lake Erie. With a large body of evidence confirming importance of outdoor learning spaces for a child’s physical and mental well-being, the importance of this innovative learning space cannot be overstated.
The Centre features a number of conservation features, including an energy efficient lighting system, made possible with a grant from Farm Credit Canada. It will also function as a centralized location for flood forecasting operations so that ERCA may continue to deliver the important Flood Advisory Program on behalf of the Province of Ontario.
The Heritage & Conservation Centre was made possible thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Canadian Experiences Fund and the support of dozens of donors, totalling nearly $775,000 raised through the Essex Region Conservation Foundation.
The John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area Heritage & Conservation Centre will be open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 11am – 7pm, and weekends 11am – 6pm during the summer months.
Built in 1842, the John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area is the only living agricultural museum west of London. It is a popular destination for student field trips, tourists, and cyclists. It has been recognized with Best of Windsor Essex Awards for the past three years, and was awarded the Russell K. Cooper Award as the best living history museum in Ontario.
“Our government is incredibly proud to support the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s vision to preserve and showcase our region’s history and natural beauty through the new Heritage and Conservation Centre. For generations to come, people of all ages and abilities in Windsor-Essex County can enjoy this sustainable, accessible space for culture and education.”
-Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh
“The Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation is proud to be a party to such an important project for our community and our county. The Heritage and Conservation Centre will provide a unique opportunity to educate our community as to the importance of our ecosystem and our need to protect and preserve it. We want to thank everyone who has contributed both monetarily and with their hard work and vision to create such a wonderful space.”
– Barry Zekelman, The Stephanie & Barry Zekelman Foundation
“At a time when connection to the outdoors and the need for innovative learning spaces has never been more important, the Toldo Foundation is proud to support the Essex Region Conservation Foundation and our students of all ages in the creation of a unique and environmentally conscious learning space.”
– Alex Toldo, Trustee, Toldo Foundation
“As we prepare to welcome visitors back to the Town of Essex, the John R. Park Homestead Heritage and Conservation Centre ensures our community will be a destination for years to come. We are proud to support this investment which helps tell the story of our community’s past while sharing information about local businesses and our thriving tourism sector. On behalf of the Town of Essex, we are thrilled to see this project become a reality and thank you to all of the individuals and organizations who have supported it.”
– Mayor Larry Snively, Town of Essex
“Despite the ongoing challenges that our community, and indeed the world, has faced over this past year and a half, what’s remained constant is the community’s value of this special place. Nothing has evidenced that community value more than the incredible support from so many donors who helped to turn this dream of an accessible Heritage and Conservation Centre into a reality.”
– Tania Jobin, Chair, Essex Region Conservation Authority
“Preserving our region’s heritage is one of the key focus areas for the Essex Region Conservation Foundation. We are so thankful to the many supporters who have demonstrated their love of the John R. Park Homestead and its ability to bring history to life. Their generous contributions have allowed this beautiful, accessible and innovative Heritage and Conservation Centre to be built for all to experience.”
– Claire Wales, President, Essex Region Conservation Foundation
The Essex Region Conservation Authority is extremely grateful to the Government of Canada’s Canadian Experiences Fund for its generous contribution to create the Heritage & Conservation Centre.